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MasterWP Launches 2023 WordCamp US Travel Program with $10K in Grants for Underrepresented Speaker Groups

WordCamp US 2023, which is being held August 23-25 in National Harbor, has opened its call for speaker applications. If financial considerations are preventing anyone from applying, there are scholarships and grants available to help cover travel expenses. WCUS is now accepting applications for the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship for travel. This particular scholarship applies to anyone who is a WordPress contributor, identifies as a women, has never attended WCUS, and requires financial assistance to attend.

In the interest of promoting a more diverse pool of speakers, MasterWP has launched its travel grant program for WCUS that will support a larger number of applicants. The program will provide more than $10,000 in grants for members of underrepresented groups who are accepted to speak at the event. Those who are selected will receive at least $1,000 towards their travel expenses.

In 2022, the program paid for seven speakers and organizers from underrepresented groups attending WCUS in San Diego. This year MasterWP is aiming to support more speakers and has already received contributions from AccessiCart, Nexcess, Paid Memberships Pro, The WP Minute, and UnlimitedWP towards the fund. They are still accepting corporate grant partners and 100% of funds contributed go directly to the grant recipients.

In recent years, flagship WordCamps have stepped up their work towards diversifying their speaker lineups, as the community has held organizers’ feet to the fire when events failed to recruit a diverse selection. WordCamp Europe has come under scrutiny once again this year for its response to criticism about the lack of diversity in its early speaker announcements. The event has a speaker support program that connects speakers to companies for financial support but is not involved in the selection process.

“If we want to build WordPress for the next generation, we need to be inclusive,” StellarWP director of community engagement and WP Speakers project creator Michelle Frechette said.

“The next generation is already demanding it. Inclusion is the future. Without it we are irrelevant.”

MasterWP’s travel grant program was created as an independent initiative and is not affiliated with WordCamp or The WordPress Foundation. A growing dissatisfaction with speaker diversity at WordCamps has led WordPress companies to create their own means of supporting the diversity they hope to see at events.

“My conversations with leaders at several major companies led me to believe that many well-meaning, friendly and progressive people simply do not understand that some people cannot afford to participate in the career-growth opportunity of attending a major WordCamp – a similar dynamic to the unfairness of unpaid internships,” MasterWP publisher Rob Howard said in a recap of the 2022 program.

“Since diversity is fundamentally an economic issue, improving it requires economic change. The travel sponsorship is a small economic change that has already made a big impact.”